Mysterious melon blight
Photo credit: The Baltimore Sun/Kim Hairston
A loyal Garden Variety reader, Dave from Joppa, emailed me to say that he remembered his father telling him many years ago (he is 62) about a blight on the Eastern Shore of Maryland that destroyed the honeydew crop.
"I have never been successful in growing any," said Dave, who grows many of his own vegetables from seed. "I wonder if you have ever heard the same and if you know if others have any information on this.
"I cannot rememberseeing any honeydew melons being sold at vegetable stands that I have ever frequented."
I checked with Sun researcher Paul McCardell, and he found ancient newpaper clippings that talk of a canteloupe mildew that damaged vines in 1924 and 1949 before they had a chance to flower and produce fruit.
My friend Jon Traunfeld at the University of Maryland agriculture department says that any number of diseases might have wiped out the melons in the event that Dave remembers. And those diseases affect all melons: musk, canteloupe and honeydew.
As to why he's not seeing honeydews at farmers' markets? He must not be going to the right ones because honeydew melons grow very well in Maryland. Dave's lack of success growing them himself, Jon says, might be due to not enough sun or poor soil.